February 2007 ISSUE

national engineering & geoscience week

Volunteer Builds Future
With Blocks of Fun


Public Relations Coordinator

Brian Gould, Pastabot creator, judges the event at a science olympics.

The only thing more exciting than competing in science olympics is designing and administering events, says Brian Gould, an APEGGA student member. He’s been hooked on the annual inter-school competition since 2001 — the first year he participated as a junior high student with the Beaumont Composite team.

Now a volunteer, Brian marks his seventh time at Edmonton Science Olympics by helping out in 2007. “When I was in school, I looked forward to the competition every year,” Brian says. “After graduation, I wanted to give something back and continue to be involved.”

Currently in his third year of civil engineering at the University of Alberta, Brian developed an interest in science at an early age. “My parents probably had the most influence on my decision to enter engineering. The house was always stocked with construction toys and one of my earlier memories is colouring building plans with wax crayons.”
Brian also credits some influential teachers, especially Chris Fensky, who taught him most of his high school math, physics and scitech — a locally developed pre-engineering course — and coached his Grade 12 science olympics team.

“Engineering seemed to fit well with my strengths and interests,” Brian says. “By the time grade 12 rolled around, applying to study engineering was automatic. No decision required.”

His aptitude is evident. In 2004 Brian received the Governor General’s Academic Medal, which is awarded to the student with the top graduating average in each high school. “That award means a lot to me because of how tight the competition was at our school and how hard I had to push myself,” he says.

Also that year, Brian was a member of the team that won the first place overall title in the high school division at Edmonton Science Olympics. “My two favourite memories are from the 2004 event,” he says.  “On the competitive side, our wind craft was the only entry to achieve zero distance from the target, and the crowd’s reaction as it automatically steered the corner was awesome.”

On the fun side, his team brought a video camera to record some of the events and interview participants on other teams. “I met a lot of people, and it’s impressive how many of the competitors end up in engineering.”

Despite a challenging university course load, Brian makes the time to assist with the Edmonton competition. In 2005 he volunteered as an event judge, and in 2006 he took the reins as an event manager, designing the high school Pastabots event.

He’ll be back with a new event for 2007. “Designing a challenge is quite possibly more fun than solving one,” he confesses. “I thought with my previous experience that I’d be able to close all the loopholes, but I forgot how good these kids are at finding them!”

Brian also appreciates that the science olympics is a hands-on approach to learning that appeals to students of varying aptitudes. “Whether you’re an honours student or just hanging in there, tests are about getting the right answers and not messing up your average,” he says. “Science olympics lets you win with the right answer, but you can also lose with the right answer and even win with the wrong answer. It’s as much about the process as the results.”

And being part of the process has been very rewarding. “I’ve watched science olympics grow over the years,” Brian says, “and I’m excited to see competitions being held in other cities. As more people get involved, I hope that science olympics will expand enough to support an annual provincial competition — now that would be fun!”